Saturday, November 14, 2009

Paralysis From Fear And A Dancing Animal

By Pat Browning

Rabbi Ilene Schneider got my attention with her Nov. 11th DorothyL post on writer’s block. I think it describes perfectly what some mistakenly call “writer’s block” when they really mean “fear” – fear of failure, even fear of success.

Ilene really is a rabbi and she really has written a mystery – CHANUKAH GUILT, featuring – who else – a rabbi.

Her bio is fascinating. From a Google search:
Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Ed.D. hasn't decided yet what (or who) she wants to be when she grows up. (She lives by the t-shirt logo: "I may grow older, but I'll never grow up.") In her current incarnation, she is Coordinator of Jewish Hospice for Samaritan Hospice in Marlton, NJ, near Philadelphia. (She was one of the first 6 women ordained as a rabbi in the US, back in 1976.) Interested in nature and conservation, she also is active in the New Jersey Audubon Society at the Rancocas Nature Center.

In addition to ordination, she has earned a few degrees over the years, all in different disciplines and none worth much in the market place. (BA in Publication from Simmons; M.Ed. in Psychoeducational Processes from Temple; Ed.D. in Foundations of Ed. from Temple; honorary D.D. from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College for surviving 25 years in the rabbinate). She also began piano lessons for the first time in her life when she was in her 50's -- a total disaster (especially for the teacher), but fun.

In her spare time (which she finds by never cleaning the house), she's a birder and gardener, although her garden's almost as much of a mess as her house. (She believes in benign neglect: she plants it; if it comes up, great; if it doesn't, she tries something else. She lets nature do the watering, which is why everything in the flower boxes is dead, and refers to the weeds as "wild flowers and decorative grasses." When the weather's nice enough to garden, she's more apt to be birding.

She's been married for over 30 years, and has two teen-aged boys, making her part of the trendy group of "older" parents.

Ilene speaks for many writers when she describes “paralysis from fear.” I asked her for permission to reprint her DorothyL piece. Permission was graciously granted. Herewith:

What I have right now isn't writer's block so much as paralysis from fear. I got good reviews for my first novel and I'm worried the second in the series won't measure up. I know I just need to put tuches aufn tisch (Yiddish equivalent of the "Button Chair" -- great phrase, btw), because whenever I do, I'm able to produce quite a bit. But I'm always coming up with excuses as to why I don't have the time (or energy).

As for deadlines, I have very little self-discipline without external time limits, but I always meet deadlines. It took me 10 years to write my doctoral dissertation, but once the university told me it was now or never, I finished it in 4 months, 2 weeks before the deadline I had set myself for scheduling the defense, and 2 months before the university's deadline. Adams Media gave me a target date for Talk Dirty Yiddish, and even though I needed a couple of short extensions, I had that book written within a couple of months.

I did try to set myself goals - done by Malice Domestic, by Bouchercon, by Crime Bake, now by Sleuthfest - but so far haven't met them. Will I be done before February? Well, I did the dissertation and the Yiddish book in that time period, so, if I can convince myself it's an absolute deadline, maybe I'll find the motivation I need. (A contract from a publisher would be a major incentive ... any offers?)

Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Ed.D.
Chanukah Guilt, Swimming Kangaroo Books, 2007
Nominated for Deadly Ink David Award for Best Mystery of 2007
One of 2007's Top Ten Reads,
Reviewers Choice Book, December, 2007, Reviewers Bookwatch,
Talk Dirty Yiddish: Beyond Drek, Adams Media, 2008
"Such a breezy, engaging book, I should be so lucky to write." -- The Forward, February 20, 2009

Along those lines …

While cleaning up My Documents files, I came across a quote from the late Kurt Vonnegut (author of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE). In 2005 he was interviewed on the PBS program NOW.

Among other things, he said that “when we've destroyed the last living thing on earth, it would be poetic justice if the earth sent up a message: ‘It's done. People didn't like it here.’ And then he said, “We are here on earth to fart around. What the computer people don't realize is that we are dancing animals.”

I love the image of dancing animals. Maybe he's right. Maybe we should spend less time at the computer, and more time dancing and farting around. What do you think?

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